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INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC FEDERATION OF STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS. A worldwide organization of Muslim student associations, the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations (IIFSO) received its initial impetus from the experience of Muslim students in North America. In 1963, the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (MSA) was established on the campus of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. This was a new experiment in the history of Islamic student organizations, in the sense that the student constituency in the United States came from all parts of the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. The Association provided a sense of identity to the foreign Muslim students and also gave them an opportunity to learn about Islam in a modern context. The free access to Islamic literature and to books and journalistic misrepresentations of Islam helped them to discover for themselves what the Islamic revival meant to Muslims and to those who insisted on misrepresenting it.


The American Islamic experience also created a greater global consciousness in these foreign Muslim students and provided the MSA with global links through its members and alumni. This experience was enriched further when the MSA began to attract Americans who embraced Islam. Representatives of the MSA participated in the conferences and conventions of other Muslim student organizations in different countries. In the course of these meetings, Muslim students who were becoming increasingly aware of the need to restructure Islamic thought and identity moved toward a common goal: the creation of an umbrella organization that could help in the organized promotion of concepts such as the unity of Islamic thought, the universality of the Islamic movement, and the consolidation of a mature Muslim leadership.

The plan to establish a world federation of Muslim student organizations, finally realized with the establishment of the IIFSO, was adopted at a convention held at Ibadan University, Nigeria, in July 1966; it was an allAfrican affair with representatives from Sudan, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana, and Guinea. A preparatory committee was formed to mobilize ideas and resources for an international conference to be held in Sudan in December 1968.

Participation in the Sudan conference was more international; delegates of Muslim student organizations from Europe, North America, and Africa attended. The conference concluded with the adoption of an interim constitution. Three months later, in February 1969, a larger meeting was held in Mecca, during the hajj, at which delegates resolved to: reconsider the IIFSO constitution and make any appropriate amendments; make arrangements for convening the IIFSO General Constituent Assembly; and establish widespread contacts in order to introduce the IIFSO, its mission, and purpose, secure affiliation from a maximum number of student organizations, and ensure material support for the Constituent Assembly. The draft constitution was circulated among eminent Muslim thinkers who endorsed the idea and offered both support and useful suggestions.

The first inaugural conference of the IIFSO was held on 13-14 June 1969, at the Bilal Mosque in Aachen, Germany. Since then, the organization has held international conferences in several countries. Each conference has had a profound effect on the local Islamic community. A second conference was held in Aachen in 1971; the third and fourth took place in Istanbul; the fifth in Kuala Lumpur; the sixth in Khartoum; and the seventh again in Malaysia in 1988. Regional conferences have been held in South and Southeast Asia, the Caribbean region and the Pacific region, North and South America, Europe, and Africa.

The roots of the IIFSO run deep in the experience of those members who were students in the West. Most of the secretaries general have been either past presidents or active members of the MSA. Their vision of an Islamic movement that integrates the best of the Muslim world and the West has helped impart a definite character to the IIFSO.

Approaches. The IIFSO’s method is intellectual as well as practical. Combining scholarship with pragmatism, it has provided direction to various student movements and steered them toward constructive work aimed at rejuvenating Muslim thought. An important aspect of the IIFSO’s work is the provision of continuing education to its membership; thus, it sponsors and supports training camps throughout the world. In order to provide a clear direction to this activity, Dr. Hisham Altalib, a former secretary general, has published a comprehensive Training Guide for Islamic Workers. The IIFSO has also played a major role in encouraging women to take an active role in the Islamic movement. It sent women delegates to the International Women’s Conference at Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985, and its delegates played an active role in the founding of Muslim women’s organizations in Pakistan.

In the Caribbean region, the IIFSO is a significant factor in the development of private enterprise through its program of providing loans and expertise to small businessmen. It has also organized Islamic work among Spanish-speaking people in North and South America. The details of such work were refined in two international conferences held by the IIFSO in Mexico (1987) and Columbia (1988). Finally, the IIFSO has been active in providing relief and reconstruction help in places struck by natural calamities.

The IIFSO’s desire to create an independent financial base for itself has led to a new direction in Islamic publishing. Heretofore, most Islamic literature has been available only in its original language or in translation into the major traditional Muslim languages (Arabic, Farsi, Urdu). The IIFSO has made Islamic literature available in more than eighty languages. To date, it has published more than five hundred titles with ten million copies. The sale of these books has become a vital source of financing for the IIFSO’s various activities. This experience has been duplicated by several other Islamic organizations within their own jurisdictions. Several Islamic organizations, including the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), have relied heavily on IIFSO publications in building the libraries of Muslim youth organizations in different linguistic communities around the world.

This publishing venture has helped the IIFSO stay clear of fundraising activities and, at the same time, has given native speakers of many languages access to the works of several important Islamic thinkers. It is noteworthy that the IIFSO was among the pioneers that undertook translation of Islamic books, many written in English in the United States, into languages of the former Soviet Union and into Cyrillic script.

Relations with International Islamic Organizations. The IIFSO maintains close ties with other international Islamic umbrella organizations. Its secretary general is an ex-officio member of the board of trustees of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, a connection that provides a basis for mutual involvement and cooperation. Similarly, the IIFSO has close relations with the Muslim World League.

It was out of the IIFSO’s experience of success that the WAMY was born. The WAMY was founded in 1972 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at an international meeting of Islamic workers involved in youth activities and representatives of youth organizations. It was established to help youth organizations around the world implement their planned projects. It has been holding its international meetings about every three years and publishes a newsletter in Arabic and English, Al-mustagbill The Future. The headquarters of the WAMY is located in Riyadh and its regional offices are located in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Malaysia, Spain, Nigeria, and Kenya.

In keeping with its international outlook, the IIFSO has sought to maintain active communication not only with its various components and other Islamic organizations but also with international organizations. It has nongovernmental operation status with the United Nations. It participated in the World Youth Conference in Spain in 1985, in the Conference on Muslims for World Peace in 1987 in Baku, Azerbaijan, and in the International Conference on Youth Services in Chicago, sponsored by the United Nations in 1985. It took part in the U.N.’s Fifth Session of the High Level Committee on the Review of Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries held in New York in May 1987, and an IIFSO representative attended the International Conference Against Drug Abuse in Vienna in 1987.

The IIFSO has participated in various national and international book fairs held in Cairo, Khartoum, Brussels, Washington, D.C., and several other American cities, Singapore, New Delhi, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Germany.

The IIFSO is active in promoting human rights throughout the world. It has lent its active support to human rights organizations focusing on problems in South Asia, North Africa, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. It took an early lead in the Peoples’ Republic of China as soon as an opening for religious work seemed to appear. For several years, the IIFSO published Al-akhbdr (The News) in Arabic and sometimes in English. A direct source of news about the Muslim world, it was an important source of information about the violation of the human rights of Muslim minorities.

[See also Youth Movements.]


Altalib, Hisham. Training Guide for Islamic Workers. Herndon, Va., 1991.

The First 20 Years of IIFSO. Salumyah, Kuwait, 1989. Toward a Global Islamic Brotherhood. Herndon, Va., 1987.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/international-islamic-federation-of-student-organizations/

  • writerPosted On: May 12, 2014
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